Audio/Transcript: Bret Bielema

Talking about rules changes, scheduling and updating players and positions, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema addresses the local media on day one of Big Ten Media Days at the Hyatt Regency at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema -


What was Purdue's reaction when call to change game?

I agreed to it, but I didn't actually make the call. I was very grateful, because I really wanted to get that BYU game in there. For us to move forward, I've been trying to get a second FBS -- BCS, more important -- type caliber team on our (schedule). Hopefully it's going to mean bigger and better things are coming down the line.

Do you like to play an early conference game?

I think they're meeting on it today. I've got to be careful, I can't be the spokesman too often. It is something, I actually reached out to four or five league coaches on and kind of was trying to get their opinion on.

Do you hope it will happen in Big Ten?

I like it, obviously I got it with Purdue, it's the fourth game, not by choice. I remember spefically, I think we had a late game, they put up the Big Ten schedule that week, it was the third week of the season. We were playing a MAC team, it showed everybody else and nobody else was in that boat.

Then I started doing some research, you look at a lot of SEC schools, you look at the last three weeks of the season and you look at the teams they're playing. It's not always SEC, but it doesn't draw much attention, because everyone's focused on ... other bigger games.

Do you like an eight game schedule?

I don't think Fitz or I will be in the room when it's discussed. That's going to be somebody else's decision. I do think there are some scheduling things out there, for instance, for us to move forward with the BYU announcement, there are other things that tie into it but go past the moratorium for '17, that we were supposed to wait on.

It was kind of like, we were holding for '17, because we were going to go to nine, but then the Pac-12 thing fell through. Now, it's where are we going from this point forward.

I would like to stay at eight, just because I think the recipe is there. The SEC has the eight and they've won six (BCS titles) in a row. I do enjoy playing nonconference opponents. I realize fan base may want nine or 10 or play us all. I also believe if it ain't broke, don't fix it. We've been able to have some success, back-to-back BCS games, I like that formula.

Is the end of season rivalry pushed for Penn State now damaged?

The reason I tried to do it more than anything was the history of both schools. More importantly, Penn State has a longer history of winning than Wisconsin. We already have a league-ending game with Ohio State and Michigan that gets a lot national acknolwedgement and recognition. I just think Wisconsin has won a lot of football games here in the last 10 years, what can we do to join it. That's when I approached coach Alvarez, approached the Big Ten office, coach Alvarez, I believe, reached out to Penn State about making it always that game and also about the possibility of tying in some trophy, something of significance. I don't think that's diminished.

I understand, they're on a four year probation, going through some significant sanctions, but you can't erase the history that's there, in people's minds more importantly.

What's going happen to Penn State program?

I really don't know. I would say this, the two hardest things I deal with non-football wise are scholarship counts and scheduling. That obviously has siginificant impact on your program.

For instance, Jordan Kohout, how could I forsee he wasn't going to be here? That's a two-year guy, I was looking forward to being the player the next two years, and a great player. Now that affects your recruiting, your scholarship numbers. A guy that's in limbo, Jon Budmayr, he hasn't played for a long time, Curt Phillips, I'm happy Curt's alive and doing so well because at one point, I didn't know if he'd play the game again. Now, I know he's going to be challenging for the starting quarterback position. That's the part that's hard and difficult, more than anything.

Do you spend more time on scheduling that you used to?

It's probably been about the same. My first year I was kind of oblivious, just because coach still kind of had the reins on that one. At some point, that's when I took it over.

Do you want to be a vocal leader in the conference area?

I don't want to take a leadership role in our conference on that. I do know it's very, very important. I don't want to have a passive view. This is my profession, this is my livelihood.

This is how I make a living. Scheduling has a huge impact on your chances of longevity and success. So, yeah, I take it very personal.

Do you have legitimate candidates to replace Casey Dehn?

Both guard spots, obviously Ryan's been there, Kyle Costigan was very impressive to me through 15 spring practices. He's probably pound for pound one of the strongest players on our team, him and Freddie. Certain guys have been very forthcoming to me about how Costy has come along in the summer months. A couple other guys who could pop into that spot, Tyler Marz, who has played tackle and guard for us. A guy who was very impressive, Dan Voltz in the spring. A guy that's kind of transitioned and changed his body, you're not going to believe when you see him is Robbie Burge. He's a guy who was at about 325, 330 pounds. He looks like he weighs 285 now, but he weighs the exact same, he's just changed his body. He could be one of those seniors that has that special senior year that you're looking for.

How long into camp until you want to know your five linemen?

Obviously, (OL coach) Mike (Markuson) is drawing some new comparisons. Dallas Lewallen is another guy, Dallas hasn't been there. If he can jump into that role, he's going to start fall camp, he may not be able to go full go all the way, he's a guy, two years ago I thought was going to be the next great one. It'd be nice to get him back out there.

Do you think Curt Phillips a viable starting candidate?

I do. I'm kind of the same way as you, because, a, you haven't seen him for two years; and, b, it's a third ACL. But the kid, I'm sure when you talk to him, he's so mentally strong. He did what Danny did, he graduated in three years and I believe he wants to be a dentist down the line. He's so smart and gifted and talented as a human being, that's probably what has willed him back to where he is. I know that doctors feel very strong, he's been fully cleared 100 percent, everything going on.

His biggest issue was he couldn't plant in the spring?

I would agree. ... He couldn't transition a a lot. Now, life gets real when bodies are around you. It's going to be interesting to see where it goes. He will be a guy, during double days he may not be able to do both. I know he's not going to want to do that. One thing when you're dealing with a knee is once they flare up, they become an issue. If you can keep them as a non-issue, that's a good thing.

What's the status with DJ Singleton?

DJ is hopefully going to join us in January. There are still some things we hvae to go through and clear up. He hasn't been fully cleared yet.

You have faith in Curt Phillips, but do you have faith in his knee, if he's starter?

One clear conscience I have more than anything, when I'm recruiting a young man, I look at him and I tell him in front of his parents, 'There's two things I can assure you, I can't promise him playing time, or a degree. But I'm going to give you everything I can to get both. The second thing is I"ll never put your son in harm's way.

There's a certain belief in me, with faith in our doctors, if he's cleared to go, I don't have any issues or worries. I wouldn't put him out there, holding back. For me, coming off a couple knee surgeries, it plays within yourself. From the outside world, once he's cleared. I don't think that way.

Do you think Ricky Wagner can make a name for himself nationally?

Ricky's so soft-spoken, he's been kind of a quiet storm. That's a big deal moving from right tackle to left tackle. He did it fairly well. I think this year he's going to have a huge jump.

In my opinion, two great players who are going to have great jumps is going to be Ricky Wagner, and I really feel that Chris Borland is going to have a huge jump at mike, just because it's a different position. People last year, all the experts were telling me, you shouldn't move him from outside to inside. He played really well. I think another year on the inside, he's going to jump leaps and bounds. Those are two guys I think could take big jumps. What has it been like working with limited scholies last two years?

It's challenging because there's kind of like a pecking order, you want your best ones to offer first. It's a really difficult thing to work through in recruiting. I think the way we've been able to grayshirt guys is an important factor into that. But the proof is in the pudding down the road, we'll really know how good we were two years from now.

What have you heard from guys about Danny O'Brien?

I know he's living with a couple linemen, so I know he made some good choices there. He's got a pretty neat personality to him. I've seen him in the hallway a half-dozen times.

All the kids seem to have gravitated (to) him very, very well. It's one of those situations, I kind of appreciated it when we were going through (interviews) in there, all of my three guys, when they were asked about Danny, they all said, We know coach would never bring in someone who doesn't fit our family.

That's something those guys heard during recruiting and it's something they know, I'm not going to bring in someone that rocks the boat, at least not knowingly, everyone can get fooled, but usually that stuff comes out.

Did you reach out about Mike Taylor not being on the Benarik watch list?

i haven't. I was actually very shocked when that happened. I saw some people wrote about it. You can actually still get on by playing your way into it. Couldn't figure that one out, especially when I saw some of the other names. I'm a little biased, though.

His performance is certainly there, isn't it?

Mike is probably as big and as fast and as strong, he's already played at a high level, I'm not taking anything away, I'm just saying Chris, playing at a mike linebacker, can make a big jump as powerful as he is.

Will a four-team playoffs encourage stronger schedules?

Has to. It has to. I think the worst thing you can be is maybe a 12-1 team, the one game you lost is in your division and you lost to the guy that wins the Big Ten championship and you're sitting there 12-1, you want in that game. On the same side, I think it has to be one (BCS game) away and one home, there are all of those dynamics. ... Madison is not an appealing place for teams to come to. I don't mean to slight anybody's opinion ... I"ve had a lot of opportunities where teams have said, Oh, yeah, we'll play but it's not going to be (home and home). Or to go to a neutral field, I don't want to take a home game away from us to go to a neutral field. It takes away from the fans.

Do you still plan to play an FCS opponent every year?

If you can make the dates work. The hard part is, making the dates work and getting a team to come on this specific date. I believe the Tennessee Tech game was a byproduct of San Diego State pulling out of a series, it was a two-for-one, they backed out after the first one. That kind of threw that whole thing into a tailspin. it's just so hard to make dates work on the front end especially in the first four weeks.

You are bringing on three walk-on quarterbacks this fall?

Ethan Armstrong's brother is walking on, we have another walkon from Wisconsin and a walkon from California. When Matt first came here, in the spring we had two quarterbacks. We didn't know if Curt was going to make it back, we didn't know if Jon was going to make it back. We just felt we wanted to have five quarterbacks in camp. Only five will come to camp and we'll work through the rest.

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